Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chi-chi-chi chia seeds!

Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty School of Health Sciences

When you think of chia a visual of the novelty planters may come to mind. But instead of just growing the seeds you may want to think about adding them to your diet because they are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Chia seeds are an edible seed similar to flax seed, but they come from a desert plant called Salivia hispanica which is a member of the mint family. You might have guessed from the scientific name that the plant grows abundantly in Mexico but historically they were one of the “super foods” that were included in the diet of the Aztec and Mayan’s.  Chia is actually the Mayan word for strength.

I’ve noticed that chia seeds are gaining in popularity and are becoming more readily available in health food stores. They are more expensive than flax seeds but they also offer a few advantages over flax:

·         2 tablespoons of chia seeds contains 5000+ mg omega-3 fatty acids versus the 2700 mg in 2 tablespoons of flax.

·         Chia seeds are softer than flax seeds so they don’t have to be ground up before using. You may have learned from experience that if you eat whole flax seeds they make a great laxative and come out looking the same way they did when they went in! Okay I know, TMI. 

·         Chia seeds also have higher levels of antioxidants than flax seeds and because of this they can be stored for longer periods of time without becoming rancid.

·         Chia seeds are also an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, and copper. Flax is a good source of magnesium.

·         Both are great sources of fiber but chia has 6.9 grams in 2 tablespoons and flax has 4 grams.

·         Both have a nutty flavor and are very versatile- sprinkle on salads, in smoothies, in oatmeal, in yogurt or cottage cheese.

All in all chia seeds offer a slight edge nutritionally over flax seeds but including either one in your diet is a great way to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can help to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by making the blood less likely to clot, lowering bad cholesterol, and lowering blood pressure. Both can be purchased as oil, meal, flour, and seed. You many even find chia seeds turning up in a new wave of sports drinks. One study found that a beverage containing 50% chia seeds and 50% Gatorade was as effective as the 100% Gatorade in delaying fatigue http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Science-Nutrition/Omega-3-chia-seeds-may-be-carb-loaders-for-athletes-Study
What is the advantage? Less refined sugar and more nutrition by way of the omega-3 and vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content.

If you give chia a try let me know what you think.


janey10021 said...

Flax seeds and chia seeds are great sources for Omega 3. The benefit of flax seed and the benefit of chia seeds are many. Both flax seed and chia seeds contain fiber, Omega-3 and lignans. This helps lower cholesterol and can also benefit people at risk for diabetes by regulating blood sugar by slowing down the body's absorption of sugar. Flax seed and chia seeds are also both great sources for antioxidants.

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